LIMPOPO - EXPLAINER
How Stan Mathabatha is dodging the ANC axe, for now
It was a close shave for ANC strongman Stan Mathabatha, whose political future has been hanging in the balance following calls to have him removed as the party provincial chair as well as the premier of the province.
The ANC Limpopo top brass along with the National Working Committee held a marathon of meetings over the weekend to discuss the state of the province, which included questions about ANC Limpopo chair Stan Mathabatha’s leadership.
Sources told Daily Maverick that Mathabatha received substantial backing from party president Cyril Ramaphosa and secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, who were adamant that it was not necessary for the Limpopo chair to be removed from office.
Mathabatha has been under fire since his last-minute decision to ditch Cyril Ramaphosa’s Renew22 camp at the party’s 55th national conference in an attempt to convince Limpopo branch delegates to vote for Zweli Mkhize.
His decision has since divided a once-united ANC Limpopo which voted for Mathabatha to be re-elected as the provincial chair for the third time last year. Those who were advocating for his removal believe that he betrayed members by making a U-turn and failing to toe the provincial party line.
However, others argued that the party guidelines allow for members to lobby one another to vote for their preferred candidates — which means that Mathabatha was not in the wrong.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa heads to Limpopo to tackle ANC’s discipline and governance troubles
One scenario which was painted involved Mathabatha being removed only as the premier while remaining in his position as the leader of the party in the province.
There have been complaints about what seems to be his lack of interest in running the province. This stems from Mathabatha apparently being absent at government events which have to be attended by MECs.
This was seen as a bad move which might lead to a decline of support for the ANC in the province, as he will have to play an important role in the party’s 2023 election campaign.
Calls for the disbandment of the provincial executive committee were completely discounted, with senior ANC members feeling it would cause distrust and uncertainty among citizens.
A decision was then made to revisit the matter in October.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC Limpopo branch nominates ‘trusted, non-aligned’ Patrice Motsepe for president
Meanwhile, there have been three names making the rounds to replace Mathabatha as the face of the party for the 2024 election campaign.
Polokwane mayor John Mpe, Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba, and provincial treasurer Nakedi Sibanda-Kekana have been punted as premier candidates.
Mathabatha’s term of office will expire in 2024 when the country goes to the polls for national government elections and he will not be able to lead the province for a third term.
South Africa’s Constitution states that no person may hold office as premier for more than two terms, with the exception of the period between that election and the next election of a premier.
ANC NWC interacts with the branches
Members of the National Working Committee (NWC) were divided and spread across the five districts of Limpopo on Saturday. On Sunday they met and deliberated with the regional and provincial executives on matters raised by traditional leaders and ANC branch representatives.
Ramaphosa’s first stop was a meeting with traditional leaders led by Chief Gole Mphaphuli at Mbilwi village. Chief Mphaphuli called for party leaders to fight and stop corruption, especially in the local government. Issues of lack of water and potholes, which pepper local roads, were sharply raised.
Ramaphosa was then driven to Shayandima township to meet with ANC branch representatives. His motor convoy was driving slowly at a snail’s pace on a pothole-riddled Sibasa-Thohoyandou road to minimise the impact on the vehicles.
Some residents of Miluwani village who were standing by the side of the road were excited to see the president driven on the road, feeling the discomfort that motorists experience daily.
Aubrey Maumela pleaded with the president to tell his colleagues in government to fix the roads.
“Now that he experienced what we go through daily, he will tell his colleagues, especially in the local government, that they must fix the potholes. We are tired because here in the Vhembe district municipality roads are in a bad state, we also lack water, and we go through load shedding three times a day,” Maumela said.
At Shayandima Hall, where hundreds of ANC branch representatives were waiting for the arrival of Ramaphosa and members of the NWC, security was tight. Although media was not allowed inside during the deliberations, while standing at the entrance one could hear that the spirits were high, with the sound of struggle songs clearly audible. Those addressing delegates were so loud, one could hear what they were saying clearly.
Some were worried that not all those implicated in the VBS scandal were charged and they are still serving in both the ANC and government executive positions. They were referring to Limpopo deputy chair Florence Radzilani who was implicated in Terry Motau’s Great Bank Heist report.
She had initially stepped aside but after she was not charged. Radzilani was reinstated as an official in her region, then elected as the deputy chairperson of the party last year. Mathabatha then appointed her as the MEC of Transport and Community Safety.
“When it comes to the issue of VBS, it is still a lingering concern on how to deal with the VBS and we are going to report to the NWC” Ramaphosa said. DM